The respondent is a 23-year-old man from Syria, traveling with a group of three other Syrias (all male, one of them was the 14 years old brother of the respondent). Shortly before sunset, around 5 pm, they were apprehended by four officers in blue Greek police uniforms in Xanthi on 9.01.2021. The officers had arrived in two white cars, the respondent identified them as Greek police cars when shown pictures.
The officers ordered the four Syrians to undress and proceeded to search their clothes. They took their phones, money, and all personal belongings. The group was left standing in the cold only in boxers.
The officers also used batons to hit them when they didn’t undress and after the search put on their clothes quickly enough.
When asked if they expressed their intention to ask for asylum, the respondent replied:
“Yeah and they started laughing and humiliating us. They asked us how many days we had been walking. We said 15 days and they kept laughing and said we will take you to Thessaloniki. They didn’t accept our asylum claim. I even begged them for my little brother, but they just laughed and hit us.”
The group of four was then ordered to enter the two cars. During the drive, which lasted approximately 40min, most likely to Komotini, the driver at one point stopped and “showed us to the Greek people”. When asked to clarify what he meant by that, the respondent explains that the officers stopped at a small shop where they believed that the group had earlier purchased groceries. They made the group embark and asked the shopkeepers to identify them. Additionally, they seemed to be bragging about having caught them.
When they arrived at the detention site, the respondent asked for food:
“I was so hungry, but he didn’t care. We stayed the whole day and night without food. The next morning, they gave us one little piece of bread to share.”
The respondent describes the detention site as one building without a fence, several houses close, and a church behind it.
Inside, they were put into a very small and cold prison cell. About 15 people were already detained inside, among them a family with kids (the youngest 11 years old) and five women. The respondent and the others were kept in this cell for 2 days and nights (until 11th January 2021). Throughout this time they only received one piece of bread. They never received any water but there was a toilet in the cell and they drank from its faucet.
At least eight officers, likely more, were present at this detention site.
On the second night, several officers dressed in green camouflage uniforms ordered the group to enter a white truck. When entering, the officers brutally hit the group members with batons:
“They hit so hard, even there were two guys they were beaten so hard they fall on the ground and they keep hitting them”.
They were driven for around three hours to a second detention site. There was a room full of people, much bigger than the room at the first detention site, and there was a fence around the building. A total of approximately 85 people were now gathered, their nationalities including Syrian, Algerian, Moroccan, and others. They spent another half a day at this detention site.
Then, the group of 85 was taken to the Evros/Meriç River (11 January 2021). The drive took around 40min. Seven officers wearing green camouflage uniforms and balaclavas were present at the pushback spot. They were carrying assault rifles. There was also one Greek police officer in a blue uniform.
A boat had been prepared already. The respondent explains that it was small and should have no more than 6 people at most, but that they were embarked 10-13 people at a time. In the middle of the river, they were ordered to jump.